Phoenix Extravagant, Yoon Ha Lee – Book Review

Hello Humans! It’s been a while since we reviewed a book with dragons isn’t it? Well today I’m back on my DRAGON train and there’s no stopping me.

Get excited for me to wax lyrical about this amazing new book from Yoon Ha Lee.

Phoenix

Goodreads Summary:

Dragons. Art. Revolution.

Gyen Jebi isn’t a fighter or a subversive. They just want to paint.

One day they’re jobless and desperate; the next, Jebi finds themself recruited by the Ministry of Armor to paint the mystical sigils that animate the occupying government’s automaton soldiers.

But when Jebi discovers the depths of the Razanei government’s horrifying crimes—and the awful source of the magical pigments they use—they find they can no longer stay out of politics.

What they can do is steal Arazi, the ministry’s mighty dragon automaton, and find a way to fight…

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For those looking for amazing SFF featuring non-binary individuals please let me wave this book in your face in an aggressive manner.

I started this book knowing that I would probably like it a lot but also expecting for it to be a little slow – I honestly can’t tell you why maybe I was just a little jaded. So imagine my surprise and delight when this book whizzed by in a matter of hours. I was totally caught up in this world and this story and now want everyone I know to read this book so we can just scream about it together.

One thing I want to talk about because I just love it when I find it is a world where same sex relationships and gender nonconformity (not that the two are the same but otherwise I’ll be writing the same paragraph twice) are just sort of…fine? I totally respect the value of exploring the difficulties LGBTQIA+ individuals face through a SFF lense but I also love getting to, for a time, be in a world where those things aren’t questioned or opposed – it brought me much joy.

But the plot of this book was what really called to me and I have to say it did not disappoint. As many will know I have something of an obsession with magic and magic systems and this book does some truly wonderful (and deeply devastating) things with magic. I won’t spoil it for you but as an archaeologist some of the elements of how magic works made me wince. I’ll say no more. But this artistic kind of magic was so interesting and I loved how it was tied in with the theme of occupation and cultural identity.

How have I got this far into a review without talking about Arazi? I love Arazi with every fibre of my being and I would like an entire book from Arazi’s perspective please and thankyou. In all seriousness, I thought that, as dragons go, Arazi was a great addition to the pack Thunder. I loved the dynamic between Jebi and Arazi and also other characters – the dialogue throughout this book is great and I think is a big part of why the pace is so strong.

I will say I think this book is maybe just the tiniest bit imbalanced when it comes to pacing. I think part of that is in the blurb – a lot more of this book is about the ‘before’ than this blurb would suggest. If you want a whole book of revolutionaries with a big dragon automaton you might be a tad disappointed with this story. Having now read it and had a bit of time to reflect I actually think this is quite a beautiful story and I really value the exploration done in the first part of the book but I can see how my expectations meant that I couldn’t appreciate that at the time. On a first read, it felt like the book just ended when I was expecting a lot more? So I’d say make sure you manage your expectations – this is a much quieter book than you might think.

This is an exceptionally well written book and I’m so delighted to have been able to read it. It’s going on my list of ‘books I will excitedly recommend to friends who maybe don’t read that much’ list and I expect you’ll hear me yelling about it for years to come.

Now I need to go back and read the rest of Yoon Ha Lee’s work!

My rating: 4/5 stars

I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley – all opinions are my own.

Phoenix Extravagant is out October 20th!

Find on Goodreads | Amazon (Affiliate)

What say you? Will you be picking this up? Let me know in the comments below!

J

2 thoughts on “Phoenix Extravagant, Yoon Ha Lee – Book Review

Add yours

  1. I quite liked this book. I agree with your point on pacing. I felt like the book should have been a little longer since the talk before release was about Arazi but the dragon doesn’t come around for a really long time

    Liked by 1 person

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